Known for its white-sand beaches, breezy islands, and Appalachian mountain getaways, North Carolina is an outdoor paradise with endless opportunities to explore, including short and long hikes to stunning waterfalls in the region. North Carolina waterfalls are an unforgettable sight and must-sees for anyone visiting or living in the area.
These are the 10 most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.
Located just an hour away from Asheville (an outdoorsman’s paradise) in the heart of the Great Smoky and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Whitewater Falls is home to North Carolina’s largest waterfall. Standing at 411 feet high, the upper falls are a breathtaking sight. Don’t miss out on visiting the 400-foot-high lower falls, either.
Whitewater Falls is known as one of the best places to photograph North Carolina's natural wonder. Visitors can even access them from South Carolina (the lower falls are located there).
It’s an easy, quarter-mile walk from the falls’ parking lot to the lookout area, and it's accessible for wheelchairs and families. There's also lower viewing area down a set of stairs for an even more impressive view.
To get to Whitewater Falls, visitors will have to pay a small fee to enter the Nantahala National Forest. The parking lot for the falls features picnic and barbecue areas so that you can make an entire day of outside relaxation out of your visit.
Address: Cashiers, NC 28717
Located close to the town of Highlands, Dry Falls is another breathtaking, beautiful waterfall in North Carolina. It's one of the easiest of the state's waterfalls to access and provides fantastic views along the way. Ever wanted to see the backside of a waterfall? The walkway allows visitors to walk behind the curtain of cascading falls!
The walk to the falls is less than a quarter-mile and fairly accessible (there’s a short set of stairs you must descend to get to the railed walkway). The lush greenery surrounding the falls offers a cool, breezy setting, especially on a warm sunny day.
While it’s not impressively tall like Whitewater Falls, the mist spraying on your face as you get an up-close waterfall experience is something that can’t be missed. The waterfalls’ parking lot is off Highway 64, just about three miles from Highlands.
Address: Highlands, NC
North Carolina is home to a section of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a detour just off of it near the town of Brevard, and you’ll find awe-inspiring waterfalls known as Looking Glass Falls. While the falls are visible from the road, there’s nothing better than hopping out and enjoying the view up-close.
This 60-foot-tall waterfall is an easy, accessible walk to a breathtaking overlook. In the summer, you'll find visitors dipping their feet in the pool below – some even hop into the chilly waters to cool off! If you want to jump in, follow the adjacent trail down to the shallow pool.
Looking Glass Falls is accessed off Highway 276, just 16 minutes south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are several waterfalls in this area of the Pisgah National Forest, just waiting for you to explore.
Address: US-276, Brevard, NC 28712
This three-tiered beauty off the Blue Ridge Parkway tumbles 90 feet into the Linville Gorge, offering incredible views and making it one of the best waterfalls in North Carolina. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians,” Linville Gorge provides stunning views over jagged cliffs and natural North Carolina wonders.
Linville Falls is accessed by a 1.6-mile round-trip hike to several outlooks with different views of the falls. The trail stops at several lookout areas. The first lookout is a half-mile from the trailhead and takes you to an overlook between the upper and lower falls. For a better view, continue to the Chimney View overlook, where you can see the falls in its entire beauty.
A third lookout, Erwins View Overlook, gives you access to a 0.75-mile trail (Linville Gorge Trail) to head down to the falls' pools. There are also longer trails with more overlook access if you want to explore the area. The parking area for Linville Falls is located off mile 316.4 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail begins at the visitors' center.
Address: Gingercake Road, Linville Falls, NC 28647
Rainbow Falls is a must-see for impressive and up-close access to one of North Carolina's most incredible waterfalls. On sunny afternoons as the mist flows, beautiful rainbow colors bounce off the water, giving the falls its rightful namesake. Take in the sight as the water cascades 150 feet over a rocky ledge, creating a photographer's dream.
While the hike to Rainbow Falls is down a strenuous 1.5-mile trail (one way), the views are worth it – and it’s the perfect spot for a post-hike picnic. There’s also a swimming area 1/3 of a mile up the river to cool off at on hot days.
Rainbow Falls is located in Gorges State Park in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just an hour from Asheville, the trailhead is located on Grassy Ridge Road, just south of the park’s visitors’ center.
Address: Hogback, NC 28747
Head 11 miles east of Cherokee, North Carolina, and take in the beauty of Soco Falls, a double waterfall that cascades down unique, unforgettable rocky cliffs. The waterfalls form where two rivers meet and tumble into one stream of water below.
Soco Falls is easily accessed from the road – you can simply pull over and snap a picture! There's also a short trail that leads to an overlook platform and longer trails that follow the stream and take you to the bottom of the falls. The longer trails are more strenuous and known to be slippery, so take caution if you decide to hike them.
The falls are easy to miss as the parking area is very tiny. Just a few miles west of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Highway 19, look for parked cars as you drive. Driving west on the highway, there’s a small sign indicating Soco Falls’ location.
Address: US-19, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Located in the Pisgah National Forest, Catawba Falls offers another view of a tall, majestic waterfall. New parking areas and footbridges have made Catawba Falls easily accessible to the public, as it used to be tough to get to. The falls are divided into an upper, middle, and lower section, providing amazing views wherever you look.
The trail is just over two miles round-trip and leads to the base of the falls, where summer swimmers often go for a dip. The shady area provides the perfect place to sit, relax, and enjoy the roaring water above.
While it’s a long walk to get to them, these falls aren’t one to miss! Catawba Falls’ trailhead is located in a parking lot off Interstate 40’s exit 73. Drive three miles to the end of Catawba River Drive to park and hike to the falls.
Address: 3074 Catawba River Rd, Old Fort, NC 28762
Sliding Rock Falls is a unique, can't-miss North Carolina waterfall perfect for a family day trip. The falls cascade down 60 feet of a smooth rock on a gentle incline, making it a natural waterslide into a deep pool of water below. You'll find people of all ages climbing to the top of the falls to slide down.
In the summer, lifeguards monitor the area as the falls are crowded with visitors enjoying the natural waterpark. There are also safety rules, and inner tubes are prohibited, but life jackets are allowed (and recommended for young children). There are also changing rooms and an overlook above if you’d rather sit and watch.
There is a fee to access Sliding Rock Falls from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s recommended to wear durable swimwear and water shoes as the rocks can be harsh. The falls are located off Route 276 past Cove Creek Falls.
Address: Pisgah Forest, NC
If you’re looking for another unique, natural swimming hole, Skinny Dip Falls offers a scenic location with multiple pools and waterfalls to enjoy. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and just off the parkway, the falls have become a popular spot to cool off.
The entire walk to and from the falls is just one mile, and the overlooks around the falls are wooden platforms easy to access. Despite the name, you should definitely wear clothes while visiting!
While the trailhead is not marked, the parking area still fills up on warm summer days, so head over early to nab a spot. The falls share a parking lot for the Looking Glass Rock overlook at Blue Ridge Parkway’s mile 417. The trailhead is located across the east end of the parking lot at a sign that says, “Mountains to Sea Trail.”
Address: Blue Ridge Pkwy, Canton, NC 28716
This free-falling, 50-foot-tall waterfall is situated near the town of Brevard in the Pisgah National Forest. This quiet, reclusive area features beautiful cliffs and a cave behind the falls. Visitors can walk behind the waterfall and explore the cave, listening to the deafening sound of water cascading above.
Surrounded by dense forest and lush greenery, Moore Cove Falls provides the perfect spot to escape from the world and enjoy the peaceful and relaxing sounds of nature. Located near Looking Glass Falls, it’s a wonderful addition to a tour of local North Carolina waterfalls.
If you’re accessing Moore Cove Falls from the Blue Ridge Parkway, head east on Highway 276 and find it a mile before the Looking Glass Falls parking area. The small parking area is accessed via Stone Bridge. An information board provides a map to these hidden falls.
Address: Hwy 276, Pisgah Forest, NC